Martha Stewart denies wrongdoing in Penney deal

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 5, 2013 at 6:31 pm •  Published: March 5, 2013
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NEW YORK (AP) — Home decor and food guru Martha Stewart testified in court on Tuesday that she did nothing wrong when she signed an agreement to open shops within most of J.C. Penney's stores across the country.

Stewart testified in New York State Supreme Court in a trial over whether the company she founded breached its contract to sell cookware, bedding and other items exclusively at Macy's when she inked the deal with Penney.

Stewart's appearance, which followed a lineup of other top brass including the CEOs of both Macy's Inc. and J.C. Penney Co., attracted a lot of attention from the media. So much so that the judge opened up the jury box to make room for the expanded audience, and spectators had to wait behind a roped line to enter the courtroom.

During four hours of testimony, Stewart, who founded Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc., denied Macy's allegations that she did anything unethical and said she was only looking to expand her brand.

Stewart said it's Macy's that didn't uphold its end of the agreement to try to maximize the potential of her business. She said her brand had grown to about $300 million at Macy's, but the business was now "static" at the department store chain. She said she had hoped the business would exceed $400 million.

"We were disappointed," Stewart, 71, wearing a light brown tunic and a mini skirt, testified. "We got to a certain dollar amount and struggled and never got any further."

The trial, which began Feb. 20, centers around whether Macy's has the exclusive right to sell some Martha Stewart branded products such as cookware, bedding and bath items.

Penney signed a pact in December 2011 with Martha Stewart Living to open shops at most of its 1,100 stores by this spring. A month later, Macy's renewed its long-standing exclusive deal with Martha Stewart until 2018, then it sued both Martha Stewart Living and Penney.

Macy's is trying to block Penney's from opening the Martha Stewart shops within its stores. The company also is seeking to stop Martha Stewart from providing any designs to Penney — whether or not they carry the Martha Stewart label.

Martha Stewart and Penney are using what they believe is a loophole in the agreement between Macy's and Martha Stewart to move forward with their deal. It's a provision that allows Martha Stewart to sell some of the products that it offers in Macy's stores at Martha Stewart shops, too.

According to Martha Stewart lawyers, because the Macy's agreement doesn't specify that Martha Stewart stores have to be "stand alone" locations, the mini shops within Penney's stores would not violate the contract. Stewart said in court Tuesday that even Amazon.com could be considered a store, given that shoppers are shifting more to online buying.

"I don't think you need walls to be a store," she said.

The trial has revealed some of the drama that took place behind-the-scenes as the Martha Stewart-Penney deal came to be. During his testimony on Friday, Penney CEO Johnson rejected claims by Macy's lawyers that he plotted to push Martha Stewart to breach her deal with Macy's with the goal of eventually becoming the sole carrier of some of Stewart's products.

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